Must love dogs

I’ve always wanted a family photo that included our furry four legged friends, but that seemed like crazy talk.

Trying to get two kids + two dogs to smile and behave for a picture, forget about it.

When the Daily Herold interviwed me for the upcoming BlogPaws social media & blogging conference I was at home dying with the flu. Then, when the reporter contacted us and asked for a family picture of ALL OF US, I laughed. My email back to him was, “Sure, but let’s set our expectations really low, ok?”

As soon as James Roh, the photograher, arrived I told him a similar story. The whole time he kept telling us, “Thanks for being so patient.” Really? Us the patient ones? You’re the one photographing this chaos.

But after it was all said and done, we are thrilled with how well it turned out —->>>>>>


JUNE 10, 2012 12:30 AM  •  CODY CLARK – DAILY HERALD

Furry, four-legged creatures won’t literally be falling out of the sky, but it will, after a fashion, be raining cats and dogs — as well as birds, fish, guinea pigs, gerbils, etc. — in Salt Lake City later this month. Pets of all types and their owners will converge on the Sheraton Salt Lake City June 21-23 for BlogPaws 2012, a growing national event tied to the rapidly expanding world of pet blogging.

Event organizers are expecting pets of all kinds. BlogPaws cofounder Yvonne DiVita said that there will be pets ranging from the commonplace (cats, dogs, fish) to the exotic (ferrets, lizards). “One of our guests is bringing a capybara,” DiVita said. Capybaras, indigenous to South America, are the largest rodents in the world.

BlogPaws publicist Carol Bryant said that there will even be “celebripets” in attendance. One dog scheduled to appear rides a bike, while another one is billed as being the fastest skateboarding dog alive. Filmmaker Kenn Bell will be in Salt Lake City to discuss “Hero Dogs of 9/11,” which aired on Animal Planet last year, and trainers will be bringing rescue dogs as well.

The conference is not exclusively for pet bloggers, or even pet owners — DiVita said that anyone may attend — but those who have an affinity for animals are probably most likely to enjoy what BlogPaws has to offer. Salt Lake City resident Kathy Dalton, CEO of the baby products company Little Stinker, has been a pet person since birth, when her first dog, a Cocker Spaniel named Skipper, defended her nursery.

“He was very protective of me and would sleep under my crib,” Dalton said. “If anyone that wasn’t family would try to approach me he would growl at them.” A lifelong dog owner, Dalton, 41, enjoys taking her dogs Banjo (a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever) and Millie (a Yellow Labrador Retriever) hiking and cross country skiing, along with her husband and kids

Aimee Gertsch, who lives in Orem and writes the blog 4 The Love of Animals (4theloveofanimals.com) said that she’s eager to connect with people and pets she’s known, until now, only via an Internet connection.

Gertsch, 36, has a cockatiel named Birdie; two goldfish, Goldie and Tigger; and “shares custody” of Baby, her parents’ Maltese. “I’ve always loved animals ever since I can remember,” Gertsch said. “I’ve always had some sort of pet.” The list includes birds, dogs, a ferret, a frog, a hedgehog, rats and, many years ago, a kitten.

Gertsch can’t keep cats anymore — she’s allergic. “My husband loves cats,” she said, “it’s kind of sad that we can’t have them.”

Pets on the Web

Pet owners aren’t the only people who have blogs — pets have them, too. That is to say, so to speak. Heather King, who lives in Salt Lake City, owns Brutus, a Great Dane who is also “editor-in-chief” of The Anipal Times (www.anipaltimes.com), a daily online newspaper produced by “anipals.” An anipal is sort of an online avatar for a real-world animal, created and managed by the animal’s owner.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that King, 36, does a lot of her pet blogging and tweeting in character as Brutus. “My friends always laugh that Brutus has twice as many followers on Twitter (@brutusthedane) as I do as a human,” King said.

Many pet blogs are tied to a single species, or even a single animal. Bryant writes about dogs on Fidose of Reality (www.fidoseofreality.com) and said she often focuses on Cocker Spaniels. Her own dog, Dexter, is a 3-year-old Cocker Spaniel. “I’ve always had pets and I’ve always been a dog person,” Bryant said.

In addition to maintaining her own blog, Bryant, who lives in Forty Fort, Penn., and has been pet blogging for about 10 years, writes for Dogster (www.dogster.com) and BlogPaws (blogpaws.com). BlogPaws was created in 2009 by DiVita and her husband, Tom Collins, in collaboration with another blogger, Caroline Golon.

At first, BlogPaws was just intended to be a network for pet blogs — it connects more than 1,300 of them, which DiVita said is only a fraction of the total number of pet blogs on the Web. Then, after several of the bloggers met each other at BlogHer, a conference for women bloggers, they hit on the idea of a BlogPaws conference.

The first event was arranged in 2010 in Columbus, Ohio. “We thought it was going to be a nice little 50-person conference,” DiVita said. Instead, more than four times that number showed up. The second BlogPaws conference was quickly organized later that same year in Denver. In 2011, more than 400 bloggers and pet owners gathered in Tyson’s Corner, Va., despite the looming threat of Hurricane Irene.

Dalton, who’s not a pet blogger per se, but includes her dogs in her lifestyle blog, Danish Mama (goadventuremom.com), said that she’s excited to meet other bloggers and mingle with pet product sponsors. “I’m specifically excited to take our children to meet the skateboarding dog, Tillman, on Thursday night,” she said.

Canine protectors and fishy emissions

People meet at BlogPaws primarily to build a better blog: The conference features an array of workshops to help pet bloggers improve their output and expand their reach. “We help people write better, take better pictures, get better traffic, get advertisers,” DiVita said.

The conference also helps to support and popularize animal charities, an aspect of BlogPaws that’s dear to King’s heart. King adopted Brutus through Rocky Mountain Great Dane Rescue four years ago, and she and her husband, Robert, have another dog, Tess, an Irish Wolfhound and Golden Retriever mix, also adopted from a rescue service.

“I am a huge proponent of using rescue services or adopting from shelters,” King said. Many people prefer to get a dog from a pet store or breeder, King said, because they want a specific breed. “There is a rescue for every purebred animal out there,” she said. “You just have to know where to look.”

For King, owning a dog, or any pet, provides rewards that are difficult to find any other way. “I think probably my pets give a lot more back to me than I give to them,” she said. “Pets do something magical for me and a lot of other people. They’re loving, they’re calming, they’re always excited to see you.” And, for King, they make her feel protected.

“I’m never alone, I’m never scared to go anywhere,” she said. “They give me a feeling of safety that I can’t replace even with my husband.”

Dogs are part of the family for Dalton, who said that recently adding a dog and a baby to the household at the same time was a major transition. Millie, the family’s yellow lab, she said, is “a little Houdini and has eaten through fences, shoes, balls, you name it. But when she ran away last month we were devastated. Our son had made ‘lost dog’ posters and was so sad at the thought of not seeing our dog again.” (Millie has since been reunited with the family.)

Gertsch said that she loves having animals around because they’re such good company. “Our pets keep us laughing with a lot of the things they do,” she said. “Even our fish are entertaining to watch.” Watching the animals can also be informative.

“I didn’t realize that fish can get gas” until owning goldfish, Gertsch said. What’s the remedy? “You have to feed them frozen peas.”

Celebrating the bond, whatever it is, between pets and people is right at the heart of BlogPaws. “They’re not just these little animals that you feed and let them out into the backyard,” DiVita said. “We all believe, in the pet community, that pets are an important part of the family.”



BlogPaws 2012: Pet Blogging and Social Media Conference

When: June 21-23

Where: Sheraton Salt Lake City, 150 W. 500 South, Salt Lake City

Cost: $199 full conference per blogger/individual attendee

Info: events.blogpaws.com

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